Archive for Sunday, August 19, 2001

Pets need protection from internal parasites

August 19, 2001


Internal parasites can pose a serious health threat to companion animals. Whether your animal has fleas or heartworms, prevention is the key to keeping them healthy.

If worms are causing disease, there should be a change in the appearance of your pet's feces. This is followed by a decline in the general health of the animal. Note decreased appetite, weight loss, upset stomach, anemia and mucus or blood in the feces.

Stressful events such as pregnancy, trauma, surgery or severe disease can activate dormant larvae. Also, during pregnancy round and hookworm larvae are activated and migrate to unborn puppies. A heavy parasite infestation can appear in a litter even if the mother has been dewormed.

The best treatment for internal parasites is knowing the life cycle of the parasite and taking preventive measures when the parasites are most vulnerable. If your dog is outside, make sure the kennel is clean and dry. Feces should be scooped daily. Kennels with concrete floors should be hosed down minimally every other day. Likewise, cat litter boxes should be scooped daily.

Dogs and cats that hunt and eat wild animals or rodents are susceptible to infection with a number of parasites. If you see worms in the animal's feces or suspect your animal may have internal parasites, take a stool sample to your veterinarian for examination.

Your veterinarian can prescribe medication and a schedule for you to follow that will prevent reinfestation.

Some internal parasites pose a risk to humans, especially children that play in areas contaminated by dog or cat feces.

Heartworm is one of the most serious health hazards affecting dogs and begins with the bite from a mosquito. The mosquitoes with infected larvae bite a dog or cat and leave the larvae in the bite wound. After three to four months , the larvae migrate to the heart, where they develop into mature adults.

Symptoms of heartworms can be a dry and frequent cough, sluggishness, labored breathing, weight loss, fainting, swollen stomach and rapid tiring during exercise.

The symptoms depend on the severity of the infection, the location of the heartworms, the length of time they have been present and the amount of damage done to the heart, lungs and other organs. A blood test by your veterinarian can determine whether your animal is infected.

The disease can be treated in some cases. Talk to your veterinarian about preventative measures for your pet.

The control of external parasites also needs to be done to protect pets from infection and serious illness. When treating external parasites, you must not only destroy the adult, but also break the life cycle.

Once your animal is infested, fleas and ticks are difficult parasites to control. Flea and tick collars are only a partial solution. There are many items on the market today, such as sprays, powders, shampoos and dips, to help rid your animals of fleas and ticks. Be sure to read the label carefully.

You also must clean the area where the pet lives, including furniture, bedding and rugs. Be sure to dispose of the vacuum bag promptly because it can contain fleas and their eggs. Sometimes a professional exterminator is necessary to control heavy infestations.

Once fleas and ticks have been eradicated, be sure to follow your veterinarian's advice regarding preventative measures.

Midge Grinstead is executive director of the Lawrence Humane Society. She can be reached at

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